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Chapter 36: Epilogue
4 months later
“How do I look?”
Matthew observed me as I preened in front of the mirror. He rolled his eyes as I hitched my tights up again and hoped that they would do their job of tummy-smoothing. It was honestly their primary purpose, far more important than keeping my legs warm in autumn.
“You look great, stop fussing,” he scolded, looking back down at his newspaper.
I sighed, pretending like I didn’t enjoy fishing for compliments. He knew exactly what I was doing and it didn’t bother either of us in the slightest. It was like a routine, me being overly worried about my appearance and him criticising my insecurities.
“Are you sure you can’t come?” I whined. “I’m really not looking forward to facing today alone.”
I turned to him, sitting at the foot of the bed near his feet.
“Sorry,” he said, putting his newspaper beside him on the bed and leaning forward to kiss me on the nose. “I have lots of work to do. And you know what my boss is like if I don’t keep on top of things. She’s a real ogre.”
I scowled. “I’m sure she won’t mind this once,” I grumbled, playing along.
“She’ll fire me for sure,” he said with a grin. “Anyway, you won’t be alone with all your family there. Molly’s going, isn’t she?”
“Yes,” I conceded. “I just like showing you off to everyone.”
He laughed. “Who can blame you? Go on, you’ll be late.”
I kissed him square on the lips before grabbing my handbag and dashing out into the hall. I knocked on Molly’s door, waiting for her to emerge before speaking.
“Are you dreading this as much as I am?” I asked as she shrugged on her coat.
Molly shrugged. “You’re overthinking it. It’ll be fine.”
I grimaced. “I don’t think you’re thinking about it enough. This will be the first time the family’s been all together in one place since the split, you know. It’s going to be an absolute disaster.”
Molly snorted. “Oh come off it, Rose. We’re not all immature like you. I’m sure everyone will be civilised.”
Somehow I doubted that, but I dropped the matter and took Molly’s hand as she took us to Shell Cottage, where Dominique was now living permanently. I couldn’t blame her for wanting to move back in with her parents now that she had a baby, but there was no way I could ever see myself living with my mum and dad again; they’d drive me mental within a week.
“I’m not sure I like babies,” I said thoughtfully as Molly reached up to ring the doorbell.
There was a chilly sea breeze coming up over the cliffs to bother us and I shivered, wrapping my coat closer around my body. It was about to rain at any moment, I could tell, and I hadn’t brought my umbrella.
“Nobody does, except for their own,” Molly informed me. “Just say it’s the most beautiful baby you’ve ever seen and they’ll be happy.”
The door was tugged open by a tanned looking Fred; he had flown over from Australia two days ago for the big party, presumably under threat from his mother, and was looking very healthy indeed.
“Come in,” he told us. “Everyone’s in the living room until you get called for your turn to see the baby.”
I looked at Molly out of the corner of my eye and couldn’t help but snigger. Of course there were so many of us that we had to queue up to see the new-born. I bet Dominique was going to be very tired after today. I wondered if she’d really suggested that her parents throw a big party to celebrate the arrival of the newest member of our family or if she’d actually been coerced into it.
As we walked through into the living room, I quickly surveyed where all the family members were. James, Roxanne, Louis and Hugo were all huddled up together in the corner nearest the table of drinks. Lily and Lucy were busy chatting to Aunt Audrey about something that was most likely very uninteresting. The other adults were presumably either seeing the baby or helping to prepare lunch. Finally, I spotted Victoire; she was sat on her own, nursing a glass of champagne and looking like she was about to drown herself in it. I tugged on Molly’s sleeve and tilted my head in Victoire’s direction.
“Hi,” Molly said, causing Victoire to look up and relax at the sight of us.
“Hello,” she said, budging up on the sofa so we could both fit. “I thought you’d never get here. I’ve never felt more awkward.”
I knew that the party itself wasn’t the root of Victoire’s anxiousness; she’d spent a lot of time with Dominique and the baby since he was born ten days ago so that couldn’t be why she felt on edge. I narrowed my eyes. “Is Teddy coming?” I asked. I hoped she would prove my hunch wrong and say no, but I knew I wasn’t that lucky.
“Supposedly,” she said sourly. “My parents thought it would be churlish not to invite him.”
Oh dear; this was exactly why I hadn’t been looking forward to a large gathering. I knew one day I’d have to see him again but I wasn’t sure this was the moment. Poor Victoire, she would always be caught in the middle of this strange triangle which she supposedly left months ago. How could she help but feel involved? She was hardly about to forget the last ten years of her life. Still, she seemed to be dealing with it well. If I had been her, I would have just not turned up. Then again, that didn’t exactly make for happy family relations if she just refused to be there for Dom and her baby when Teddy was there, and there was a high probability that he was going to be around a lot at important occasions and large family gatherings.
My Dad entered the room, spotting me and beckoning me over. I grabbed Molly and went to see what he wanted.
“It’s your turn to go upstairs,” he told us, looking a bit emotional (from too much of my mother’s painful baby talk, I expected). As we left the room, I overheard him telling Fred how Mum and I had single-handedly destroyed Gilderoy Lockhart’s bid for Minister with our education scandal. I rolled my eyes at his over-exaggeration; all that had happened was that Mum went off to have a quiet word with him and it had somehow made the news (it helps to have journalists like James in the family). After that he’d decided it was best if he stepped down from the candidacy.
Molly and I trooped upstairs to find Dom alone with the baby in her room. It was strangely quiet up here compared to the low drone of conversation throughout the rest of the house.
“Your mum just had to go wipe her eyes,” Dominique said with a small smile. She was cradling her child in her arms, and offered him up for us to hold.
When I didn’t move, Molly took him out of Dom’s arms and nestling him in her elbow.
“He’s so tiny,” she cooed, looking gooey eyed. I panicked slightly, hoping that Molly wasn’t about to get any ideas about starting a family with Lorcan any time soon.
“What’s his name?” I asked quietly, hoping not to disturb him too much. Molly stroked the top of his head softly, running over a tuft of white blonde hair.
“We’re going to call him William,” she told me, looking fondly at the baby. “He’s going to be big and strong just like his Grandpa.”
I smiled, thinking that it was a nice gesture, but at the same time vowing to never call my child after my parents; I didn’t think any child would appreciate being called Ron or Hermione. I definitely wouldn’t be naming a boy after poor Boris; as much as I missed him, there was no way any child of mine would be getting his name, not even as a middle name.
“He’s the most beautiful baby I’ve ever seen,” I told Dom, remembering what Molly had said earlier. I wasn’t being completely insincere; he had very tiny fingers and legs that were cute. I didn’t know what else I was supposed to be looking for, but Dom seemed to look proud anyway.
When we returned downstairs, a slight hush had fallen over the room. I saw Teddy standing awkwardly on his own by the door whilst Victoire looked pointedly away. Molly went to join Victoire back on the sofa; I dithered undecided for a split second before choosing to go and talk to Teddy briefly. I couldn’t ignore him forever and I doubted he would be leaving any time soon.
“Hi,” I said, joining him by the open door.
“Hello,” he replied stiffly. “I thought you wouldn’t want to talk to me.”
I shrugged. “There’s no point in being uncivilised, is there?”
He nodded. It was remarkable how I felt literally nothing for him these days. I was no longer obsessed with him, no longer trying to convince myself I wasn’t madly in love with him but I wasn’t even angry at him anymore. He was just the father of my cousin’s baby and that was it.
“Your son is beautiful,” I told him in order to break the silence. “You must be very proud.”
He grimaced. “I’m not sure proud is the right word for it,” he retorted. “Ashamed is more like it.”
He really had learned nothing from all of this, I thought. “That’s not his fault,” I told him sharply. “You have to put all of that behind you now.”
Turning to me, he fixed his eyes on me. “It’s easier said than done. I’m trying, believe me. It just takes time to stop regretting the biggest mistake of your life.”
It was then that I walked away from him, not lowering myself to respond to him. It seemed to me that Victoire was doing a better job of dealing with this than he was, and it had been his decision to make. To be honest, I sincerely hoped he never had to have the conversation with William that went something like, “no you weren’t planned, you were actually the biggest mistake of my life”. Honestly, his attitude was what he really needed to be ashamed of.
It was this that made me really sure that I no longer loved him. Everyone made mistakes, they were unavoidable, but he was dealing with it in a most unfavourable manner. He needed to eat a big slice of humble pie and get on with it.
Later, Molly and I found Albus sitting outside in the rain. His shoes were buried in fresh mud, his hair dripping and his skin shining with damp.
“What are you doing?” I asked, sitting down beside him. Molly placed her coat down on the ground as a mat before joining us. She hugged her knees to her chest in protest.
“I needed some peace and quiet,” he told us, smiling as we listened to the howling wind and the beating of the rain. Somewhere beneath us, angry waves buffeted against the cliff face. “I don’t like crowds.”
“Don’t you?” Molly asked. “I never knew that.”
Poor Albus, trapped in a family too large to suit his personality. He’d always been the quietest of us all and we’d left him to it, accepting him for that. He was, perhaps, the most easy-going of us all, completely comfortable in his own skin. He was like Matthew; happy in his own company and quiet until something needed to be said. Sometimes I wish I could be like them both, never needing to fill in awkward silences with stupid sentences and so making a fool of myself.
Deciding that it was stupid to sit around in the wet and cold, and for fear that I would catch pneumonia, I made my excuses and left them to it. Inside, everyone was drifting off to go grab whatever lunch Aunt Fleur had rustled up. When no one was looking, I retrieved my coat and a bottle of champagne and left. I’d done my duty and made the right noises, but now I felt like it was time for me to leave. There was only so much of my family I could take in one go.
Arriving in Hogsmeade, I walked up the muddy path to the Shrieking Shack. Scorpius answered the door almost as soon as I rang the doorbell, pot of hair gel in one hand and the other poised to smear it onto his scalp.
“Rose,” he said, caught off-guard. “I didn’t think you were coming over until after the party later?”
I shrugged. “I’ve been to the party and I did my bit so I left.” I chucked him the bottle of champagne, causing him to drop the gel on the floor so he could catch it. “Here, free booze as promised.”
“Ooh, thanks.” He stuck the bottle on a table and bent to pick up the gel. “You caught me in the middle of my beauty regime, I’m afraid.”
I rolled my eyes, almost laughing at the fact that he thought applying hair gel counted as a beauty regime. “You don’t have to make yourself beautiful for me, Scorp,” I told him, watching critically as he went to work on smoothing his fringe down.
“Of course I do,” he scolded. “I’m still hoping you’ll go out with me again one day. I have to make the right impression.”
I sighed. “I have a boyfriend now, you know. I’m not going to go out with you.”
He winked. “I know. I was only joking, silly.”
Of course he was joking, I thought with relief. He wouldn’t be stupid enough to bring up the idea of us being romantically involved again… would he?
“Good,” I said after I remembered I was halfway through a conversation. “I thought you were keen on that girl you met at your knitting group.”
“Oh, I am,” he said cheerfully. “She’s knitting me some earmuffs ready for the winter.”
I couldn’t help it; I laughed, so hard that I eventually couldn’t stop tears from falling. The image of Scorpius, his hair smoothed down and streamlined, wearing a pair of knitted earmuffs was far too much for me. There was one thing I could never ever criticise about Scorpius; he always made me laugh. So what if it was at him, not with him? Sometimes all you needed was a little bit of comic relief in your life to put everything else into perspective.
“You know what?” I said lightly as Scorpius frowned at my hysterics. “I think they’ll really, really suit you.”
I didn’t think he could tell whether or not I was mocking him, but in the end what did it matter? A little bit of uncertainty never hurt anyone; I was definitely testimony to that.
AN: Squee! Okay, I have many things I want to say but I don't want to bore you. First of all, definitely thank you to everyone who has managed to reach the end, to everyone who has been reviewing and reading and helping me continue all the way until the epilogue. Thank you to Rachel for nagging, for correcting and for cheering me on. I'm so happy yet so sad this is over... except that I have already started writing a sequel so you won't be missing me for long. Thanks for making this my favourite story to write to date and hopefully I'll be seeing you again for the sequel very shortly. Love ♥
And, well I don't usually mention this because I'm shy, but hey, what the heck. If you enjoyed this story, the Dobby awards are up over at the forums if you want to consider nominating me. Much love again! *shuffles off in awkwardness*